HRT crisis 'is putting lives in danger', charity warns

HRT crisis ‘is putting lives in danger’: Drug shortages could push menopausal women into taking their own lives, charity warns

  • Fears without HRT some women will lose jobs or become depressed and suicidal
  • Oestrogen gel in short supply since 2021  and some have started rationing it
  • Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced he would appoint a new HRT tsar 
  • For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org

HRT shortages could lead to menopausal women taking their own lives, experts warned last night.

Manufacturers have vowed to solve the issues by June, but campaigners say that may be too late for some. 

And they criticised the Government’s ‘bad planning’ – in failing to meet rising demand for the hormone treatment. 

Oestrogen gel has been in critically short supply since the start of the year, forcing women to take desperate measures. 

Some have resorted to rationing their prescription, swapping treatments in car parks, turning to the black market, driving to far-flung pharmacies and even looking abroad.   

It is feared that without HRT some women will lose jobs, marriages or – in the worst cases – become depressed and even suicidal. 

Manufacturers have vowed to solve the issues by June, but campaigners say that may be too late for some. And they criticised the Government’s ‘bad planning’ – in failing to meet rising demand for the hormone treatment (stock image)

 Panicking: Millie Kendall, pictured, who runs the British Beauty Council, admitted she was so desperate she bought Oestrogel from the black market online. She also bought a dose from a work colleague’s mother for £50

‘Women are terrified of their symptoms coming back,’ said Katie Taylor of the Latte Lounge support group. 

‘Some women talk of feeling suicidal, they have extreme anxiety and depression, and are panicked by the thought of the black hole they were in before treatment returning. It is no coincidence the highest rate of suicide among women is in the 45 to 55 age group.

‘Women are losing jobs, marriages are breaking down – someone needs to get a grip of it urgently.’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday announced he would appoint a new HRT tsar to tackle the crisis. 

Ministers blame increased demand and Covid-related global supply problems for the shortages.

But Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who co-chairs the UK menopause taskforce, said the Department of Health had to take responsibility. ‘Awareness has been growing and it has led to women like myself, who were prescribed anti-depressants, realising that maybe they weren’t depressed after all but were experiencing the menopause,’ she said.

Boom in pills to boost libido

Retailers are hoping to cash in on the return to normality after two years of social restrictions are now championing libido-enhancing products. 

Holland & Barrett is offering ‘natural libido-boosting remedies’ for £24.99.

While Harrods is selling a ‘libido enhancer’ IV drip for £240, as well as caramel-flavoured syringes of liquid designed to heighten sex drive for £1,100.

While Selfridges offers JSHealth capsules to help ‘hair and libido’ for £30. 

Pictured: Pugh cartoon

‘Women have been empowered to go to their GP and ask about HRT. The Government should have been talking to suppliers a long time ago, they should have realised demand was increasing.

‘If this was insulin there would be an outcry. HRT is no different to diabetes. There are women who are suicidal. People haven’t taken it seriously and women’s health has been ignored.’

The problem has arisen because prescriptions for one popular form of HRT gel, Oestrogel, have risen dramatically, with 500,000 now written each month, compared with 300,000 a year ago. 

Besins, the firm that supplies it to the NHS, has admitted it is struggling to meet ‘extraordinary’ demand, but has pledged to increase production. 

In the meantime, GPs have been forced to prescribe alternatives. But supplies of those gels are now also running short and women are reluctant to try alternative treatments, or even go back to taking HRT tablets, which are not as popular because they have a higher risk of blood clots and strokes. 

The Daily Mail spoke to pharmacists across the UK yesterday and they said the situation in the South East and London was ‘very acute’. 

A pharmacist in Middlesbrough said they had been experiencing shortages across all HRT medication for at least a year.

‘We have to give the prescription back and tell the patient to try a different chemist,’ he said. ‘They do get quite upset about it but there’s nothing we can do.’ 

Another pharmacist, in Norwich, said patients were upset. ‘They then have to go back to their GP to get a different prescription,’ she said.

‘Often this is for patches or tablets which a lot more women react negatively to compared with gels. People understandably get really frustrated. It’s not very nice for them.’ 

A spokesman for Boots chemists said: ‘We are in regular contact with suppliers and understand that they are increasing their production and expect issues to be resolved in the coming weeks.’ 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, announced he would appoint a new HRT tsar to tackle the crisis.

Around 1.5million women a year experience debilitating symptoms of the menopause, including disturbed sleep, hot flushes, anxiety, depression and joint pain. 

Of these, around 10 per cent are prescribed HRT gels, patches or tablets. A businesswoman yesterday described the national shortage of HRT as a disgrace.

Millie Kendall, who runs the British Beauty Council, admitted she was so desperate she bought Oestrogel from the black market online.

She also bought a dose from a work colleague’s mother for £50. ‘I was panicking,’ Miss Kendall said.

‘I’m 55 years old, my legs get very swollen, I can’t sleep, and my anxiety has come flooding back. It’s a necessity – and a shortage is a disgrace.’ 

Dr Clare Spencer, a GP and menopause expert based in Leeds, said it was almost impossible to get hold of HRT gel and switching to a patch was not always as effective. 

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org

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